Buddhadeb Dasgupta on his way of filmmaking.
“I make my films the way I want to. I don't like intervention, and that I make clear from the very beginning.” While this becomes a simple statement by the internationally acclaimed filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta on the director-producer equation, it also reflects his intense protection of the creativity in his person, unhindered by mundane commercial interests.
In the capital city for the Trivandrum International Film Festival where his film ‘Aami, Yasin Ar Amar Madhubala' was screened, the director spoke on his kind of filmmaking and the industry as a whole.
‘The Voyeurs' is the English title for the film and naturally the first question that comes up is, if voyeurism has become a pandemic of our times and whether technology has ensured that the trait remains entrenched in our lives.
“Voyeurism started a long time ago. It has been practised all over the world. You think something is very personal and may never know it has become public. Here, I wanted to show how it is also present in our State [West Bengal],” says Buddhadeb.
The film trails the life of a small time computer dealer and his unemployed friend Yasin. When a Marwari businessman entrusts him with the task of installing surveillance cameras all over his home to keep a watchful eye on his wife's affairs, the hero starts using the same to enter the interiors of his neighbour's room. The warp and woof of the film weaves a tale of the State's tyranny on the common man, misrule of governments, stifling of the individual and finally, the society of ‘peeping toms.'
How do the political masters respond to a film which is a telling commentary of the hectoring by the State? His answer gives a clear picture of the scene: “They play it safe. One thing the politicians, at least in West Bengal, have realised is that it is better that they do not disturb creative people. There are exceptions though. Films which were too pro-Maoist or excessively critical of the government have faced the wrath. My loyalty is to my work, my faith. If they don't allow the film to reach people, they know there will be a strong reaction.”
As a filmmaker he is very sure that his films have dedicated audiences, “even if the numbers are small.” “Though Bengal is no haven for the filmmaker, things are better. It pains me to see the Malayalam scene. Audience support is rather low. Whereas in the Mumbai film industry, things have started changing, small films, new filmmakers and unknown faces are bringing in a fresh approach to the final product. The Hindi film ‘Udaan' which made it to Cannes this year is one example,” he explains.
In times when the digital image dominates, how does he manage to retain the authenticity in his frames? Buddhadeb's films have been about journeys, loneliness, and in the context of the film screened here, it is also about distancing of the individual, alienation and intrusion. As a director who is on firm ground vis-à-vis the subject of his film, he is sure and only confirms it with, “My images don't depend on the digital, I don't manipulate images. Images are lying all over. I only find the right fit to contribute to the film.”
‘Janala,' his latest film, is from the Reliance group's Big Pictures' production house. How does big business step in to fund a film from niche filmmakers like him? “They are also open to such opportunities. I too make it very clear that the gestation period will be long. But, I must say there has been no pressure of any kind regarding the content of my film. They probably know that the film has a market.” An understanding that can only come from the conviction about the quality of one's own work. And, that is Buddhadeb Dasgupta for you.